Noticing and Understanding


This morning I was thinking about a passage I recently came across by a Buddhist monk and peace activist named Thich Nhat Hanh. He said:

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet, if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation can change.”

This passage made me think about raising little human beings. As parents, we encounter many struggles with our children as they grow and change and develop through the years. We spend an awful lot of time trying to persuade our children to do what we want, which often leads to arguments and disappointment. Clearly, positive discipline is necessary, and limit setting is an essential part of parenting, but it’s easy to get lost in our power as parents. We have a responsibility to share our wisdom and values, but if our goal is to get our children to do what we say because we say so, because it fits our agenda, then odds are they will not have the opportunity to grow in a healthy way. 

Instead, if we guide them with understanding, really trying to understand them from their point of view, even (and ESPECIALLY) when it’s different from ours, then they will have a better chance to “grow well.”

It is not an easy task. We want the best for our children, and we tend to think we know what that is. But how often do we put ourselves in their little shoes, considering life from their point of view? We may think “that’s nothing to cry about,” but you better believe it is to them! What would happen if we spent more time really noticing and listening? I believe like Thich Nhat Hanh, if we tend to our children with understanding, they will be free to grow into the best versions of themselves.